Solar power: Too popular to succeed

The $8000 solar panel rebate has proven so popular that it could be halted or wound back, according to an October 22 Sydney Morning Herald article.

The rebate was introduced by the ALP federal government in 2007, but 30 times more applications for the subsidy than expected have been lodged, even after a means test, which disqualified families who earned over $100,000 a year, was introduced.

Solar panels are usually used for hot water, which currently accounts for the greatest part of domestic electricity consumption. Mass installation of solar panels would therefore be a significant drop in domestic contributions to carbon emissions — very important in the country with the world's greatest per capita contribution to climate change.

When questioned in parliament on October 21, climate change minister Penny Wong refused to guarantee there would be no changes to the rebate or the means test, or even if the rebate would still exist in three months' time.

Unable to find money to pay for the scheme, the federal government still managed to subsidise the coal industry, Australia's greatest contribution to climate change worldwide. In a 2007 report, Greenpeace claimed that federal subsidies averaged more than $9 billion each year.

But that wasn't the end of the money they could find for industry. An October 20 report commissioned by the Australian Conservation Council estimated that the government's carbon emissions trading scheme would give $3 billion in free pollution permits to Australia's most polluting industries.

And you thought Rudd was an economic conservative.